Any theorynpractice regulars will know of my bias towards covering the NBA on this blog (I’m sorry, it’s just fun to pull out public relations learnings from stuff that happens in the NBA, for good or for bad). This one I couldn’t help but bring out. And I’ll start with a question:
How do you build a cult-celebrity inducing brand?
Tapping into pop culture and gaining a following that transcends mere consumer favoritism is arguably the Holy Grail for many companies. In fact, there have been a slew of books written about it, and yet, it’s anything but an exact science.
The fact of the matter is, it may very well be serendipitous, a combination of being in the right place at the right time, and viewed by the right people–especially if they’re keen on satire…Today’s example comes from, where else?, the Los Angeles Lakers, where a relatively under-known player has garnered some major attention. Sasha Vujajic, from Slovenia, is a 3 point specialist for the Lakers, who is often fondly referred to as “The Machine”. The nickname has a fuzzy origin, either initiated by Kobe Bryant, who said he’s a machine, or by Vujajic, himself, who said he shoots like a machine. One Laker fan decided to run with it, and has created a buzz-worthy set of videos, including a game vlog built around The Machine character.
Now, the video is a crude representation of Sasha, and could even be considered offensive. Though, taken in fun, it could also be considered invaluable publicity for the Lakers. Vujajic’s response, though somewhat ambivalent (see video below), may be a valuable lesson for other companies that may find their brand interpreted perhaps incorrectly in the spotlight.
The Lesson: Run with it (with in reason). Celebrity and popularity, unfortunately, are up to the audience, and, therefore sharing brand building with fans, customers, etc., may be essential in building a cult brand, even if it doesn’t represent the company’s own intended image.